ADHD diagnosis

Children get the ADHD diagnosis usually only at the beginning of their life at school because symptoms frequently become really "visible" then. Because children are suddenly in a new social environment and subject to a different daily routine. Also, they have to follow rules, sit still for longer periods of time and concentrate on a specific matter. But even before they enter school, children might show already first disorders. And different symptoms occur in the individual stages of development:

How to detect ADHD?

Infants: Possible indications

  • "Cry baby"
  • Instability
  • Avoidance of bodily contact
  • Eating and sleeping disorders
  • Restlessness

Toddlers: Possible indications

  • Heightened urge of activities
  • Little perseverance when playing
  • Defiant behaviour
  • Locomotor disorders
  • Problems building up stable friendships with other children

Primary school children: Possible indications

  • Child cannot sit still ("Fidgety Phil")
  • Disturbs classroom work
  • Problems with homework
  • Can be easily detracted
  • Easily irritable
  • Quickly frustrated
  • Poor concentration
  • Secondary symptoms coming up, such as forgetfulness and disorganisation

Adolescence: Possible indications

  • Increased attention deficit disorder
  • Lack of self-organisation
  • Increasingly subject themselves to strong stimuli (loud music, PC games)
  • Achievement or performance rejection
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Lack of social competence
  • Contact with drugs
Good to know: Symptoms of ADHD in adulthood are very similar to those in adolescence. Frequently, however, there are additional symptoms, i.e. emotional lability, depressions and addictive behaviour.

ADHD often remains undetected for a long time because symptoms in various stages of development are highly divergent and usually do not occur all at the same time. Yet, the proper diagnosis can be a relief not only for the affected children but also for their parents. After all, it finally provides an explanation for many of the problems they are facing.

When to see a doctor?

If you suspect your child to have ADHD, you should contact your physician. He can perform suitable examinations and advise you on any further procedure.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Once at the paediatrician, he or she will make a thorough examination of the child or cause examinations to be made. In particular, he or she also tries to collect as much information as possible from the child's social environment. Moreover, within the scope of making the diagnosis, it must be ensured that anomalies are not attributable to other physical or mental causes.

The following examination modules may be applied:

ADHD: Examination

  • Questioning parents:

    Questioning parents on the general life situation of the family and the child. The doctor will additionally ask about observed anomalies or peculiarities and whether there are other ADHD cases in the family.

  • Physical examination:

    The physical examination includes a check of the coordination of movements, as well as a check of gross and fine motor skills. Additionally, there will be a neurological examination and possibly measurements of brainwaves as well as heart function. Blood tests may also be performed.

  • Psychological condition:

    The child's psychological condition is checked based on special tests. Especially intelligence tests and cognitive attention tests or memory tests are here used. It is also determined whether the child suffers from other developmental disorders. Moreover, scholastic aptitudes are checked, such as arithmetic and reading.

  • Behavioural observations:

    The doctor also makes behavioural observations: This includes not only establishing the child's strengths and weaknesses but also behavioural descriptions by persons the child is close to, such as parents and teachers.

According to definition, the ADHD diagnosis must indicate that the child is impaired in different areas of life, such as school, family and/or recreation. Moreover, ADHD will only be diagnosed if the characteristics permanently existed for more than six months and occurred already before age 7.

ADHD diagnostics


  • Symptoms occurred already before age seven and
  • Permanently exist for more than 6 months.

The physician generally is the first contact point if parents suspect that their child has ADHD. Based on different examinations, the paediatrician can provide the correct diagnosis:

  • Questioning parents
  • Physical examination
  • Psychological condition
  • Behavioural observations